May 14, 2013

Kentucky Basilica & Book Haunt

On Sunday we and made our way on a sunny but chilly morning to the breathtaking St. Mary Basilica in Covington, KY. We arrived a good half hour before services and I anticipated exploring the near empty cathedral but that was not to be. Surprisingly for a Catholic Church, there were a lot of people there that early and so it was hard to tour while people were trying to pray. The brightness of this gothic cathedral was created by the jillion stained glassed windows. Built around 1895, the Stations of the Cross were huge mosaics. But the most stunning vista for me was a gigantic floor-to-ceiling stained glass window to the left of the altar.

On the web, one commenter said:
One of the few Cathedral Basilica Minors outside of Rome, it has the largest stain glass window in a church in the world. The inside of it is absolutely breathtaking and I find myself staring at the different stain glass windows or mosaics while attending service there.
Another writes:
Cathedral Basilica is home to some of the most beautiful architecture in the tri-state. Located in the heart of Covington, the grand church can be seen from highrises in Cincinnati. Once inside, the view becomes even more breathtaking.
Cathedral Basilica is home to the World's Largest Stained Glass Window, measuring 67 x 24 feet. The facility was erected in 1894 and ended in 1915, unfinished. Near the front door, you can notice some empty pedestals which were meant to house statues. The church ran out of money, and never added them in. The Cathedral is also lacking a steeple because it would be too heavy for the foundation to support.
Some notable architecture:
  • 26 gargoyles on the building exterior
  • murals by 1903 Covington artist, Frank Duveneck
  • two beautiful, stained glass rose windows
  • ornate statues of religious figures
  • marble flooring, sanctuary, and Baptismal
  • two gigantic organs, one dating back to 1859
  • 82 stained glass windows made in Munich, Germany
  • mosaics of the stations of the cross, made out of 80,000 tiles
Outside, one can find a lush garden, complete with path, benches and fountain. It's an enjoyable piece of serenity for Downtown Covington.
The inside of the church is modeled almost exactly after St. Denis just north of Paris, where the remains of Marie Antoinette reside in the crypts.  St. Denis in Paris was very dark, moody and medieval. It was a gorgeous church, but was in a sad state. It's replica in Covington, KY is more beautiful in my opinion. After a recent renovation, they moved the altar and added some of the most beautiful woodwork I've seen. The stained glass and the rosary are astounding! This is a place not to be missed. 

As if the beauty of the church wasn't enough, the liturgy itself was wonderful, a true high mass featuring the bishop, the successor to the apostles, and all the “smells and bells.” The music was extraordinary as well and I wouldn't have minded owning a recording of their choir's Ave Maria.

Hard gospel truth in John 16: “you will weep and mourn, while the world rejoices; you will grieve, but your grief will become joy.” Jesus goes on to compare it to a woman giving labor - we'll forget the pain afterward. Lino Rulli brought up the movie Dogma in which one character said something that struck him as so true way back when he first saw in over a decade ago. The character said, “Catholics don't celebrate their faith, they mourn it.” Which is sad and not right but then I thought, “hmmm….In light of today's gospel that's kind of interesting.” Rulli praised evangelicals for being so much happier about the faith but then I recalled the priest at mass today saying how disturbed he was by a big billboard of a smiling “wealth gospel” preacher, dressed to the nines in front of a Lexus. 

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Later went bookshop explorin' and found a 1940 volume called The Oxford Book of Verse with poetry from 1290 to 1918. Pretty much covers the gaumet.  Editor was a fellow named Quiller-Couch. Also picked up another poetry book by Ashley Shelby called Appalachian Studies. I love Eastern Kentucky stuff, especially in the wake of the History Channel's Hatfields & McCoys as well as the TV series Justified. It was very pleasant thoroughly exploring the local interest section and the leather-bounds. Happened across a history of early New England by Fiske from the late 1800s. There's something about that early Puritan period in the MA area that appeals, or rather interests, me. Would never have wanted to live there in those times.

Via podcast, listened to the great Brian Lamb interview the producer of a film documentary about the decay of Detroit and then one with Dr. Francis Collins, the head of the National Institute of Health, star of the genome project, and atheist-turned-Christian. Collins mentioned how he had his DNA tested and found out his risk for Alzheimer's, heart disease, cancers, etc… Makes me want to drop $150 and get the test done as well.

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